“The key is to set realistic customer expectations and then not just meet them but exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” – Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group.
This quote rings true in the hospitality industry, where hoteliers are on an ongoing quest to deliver unique experiences that not only meet guest expectations – but exceed them.
Read on to learn more about how to tell the difference between guest wants and needs and how to exceed expectations every time to deliver the ultimate guest experience.
What are guest expectations in the hospitality industry?
Guest expectations are behaviors or actions that guests anticipate while interacting with your property. Hotel guest expectations are everchanging as new technology, service offerings, and property types emerge.
Expectations are formed based on guests’:
Previous experience with your property. If a guest has visited your hotel in the past, they will expect a consistent experience.
Opinions from others. Reviews and word of mouth from friends and family establish expectations within a guest’s mind.
Previous experience with a competitor. Staying with a competitor will create an expectation of what your property should include.
Marketing materials. How you showcase your property online and across platforms such as your website, social media channels, and OTAs will impact guest expectations.
Some expectations will always exist in the industry, such as a convenient location, room amenities like wifi, comfortable beds, room service, helpful staff, and clean rooms. However, in 2020 a wave of new guest expectations entered the market that fundamentally changed the industry.
In this snippet of The Turndown Podcast, Richard Brosal, Co-Founder and Owner of Jet Luxury Resorts, explains how guest expectations have changed since the pandemic. From frustration due to restrictions to entitlement to upgrades, guests are much more demanding than ever.
Hoteliers must adapt to these changing expectations to deliver a positive customer experience that drives satisfaction. New expectations include:
- Self-service options. 90% of millennials are interested in mobile check-in as a contactless option to skip slow front desk service and long lines. They want to use their mobile devices to speed up any processes.
- Housekeeping opt-in. In a Best Western survey, more than 70% of customers support the shift away from daily housekeeping.
- Texting in place of emails. 77% of consumers 18-34 are likely to have a positive perception of a company that offers text capabilities to send notifications and other communications.
- Keyless entry. As of December 2021, 49.1% of properties were using digital keys, this number was predicted to increase to 64.1% by the end of 2022.
Why are guest expectations so important?
The key to customer satisfaction is understanding the relationship between guest expectations and experience. Meeting or exceeding expectations will result in positive reviews and repeat business.
Understanding guest expectations can also help hoteliers to develop their marketing messaging and pre-stay communications. By identifying your target audience and understanding their values and expectations, you can establish a solid competitive advantage to help you differentiate from competitors.
From there, you can create consistent messaging on your website, social media channels, and throughout your property to reinforce expectations across channels.
How can you identify your guests’ expectations?
According to a 2020 Salesforce study, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
But how do you know if your property is meeting expectations?
Ask your guests! Guest feedback is an invaluable tool to understand if the experience = expectations. You can understand how guests’ perceptions matched their hotel experience using qualitative and quantitative feedback.
Using guest messaging solutions, satisfaction surveys can be sent to guests mid and post-stay. We recommend sending out surveys before a guest’s stay is complete in case guest service recovery is required so you can catch a bad review before it happens.
The following guest satisfaction surveys can be used to collect feedback:
- Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
- Customer Effort Score
In addition to surveys, you can use online reviews to gauge expectations. Positive and negative reviews will provide invaluable insights into how well your property meets expectations. Make sure you consistently monitor reviews on all your OTA channel listings, review sites, and social media mentions.
What are some ways to meet and exceed guest expectations?
As Richard Branson said in his quote, you want not only to meet expectations but exceed guest expectations in unique ways.
To exceed expectations, you must first understand who your guests are and what they value. To create personalized experiences that are bound to stand out, map out your customer journey and create a baseline standard for what ‘meet expectations’ looks like for your guests. From here, identify touchpoints along the journey where your team can go above and beyond to delight your guests.
For example, if your target audience is business travelers, offer an in-room Keurig machine equipped with creamers in the minibar. Be creative and remember that guests appreciate personalized touches, so consider adding extras like a gift basket or welcome letter.
As part of your marketing strategy, ensure you set realistic expectations across your materials. It’s always better to underpromise and over-deliver once a guest arrives. Communicate expectations with your staff and develop clear procedures and guidelines for staff to refer to.
What are the different types of guest expectations?
Deloitte has categorized the 5 basic guest needs for hoteliers to be aware of to meet and exceed guest expectations:
- Engage me. This need looks at how hotel staff engages with guests in a personalized, authentic, and attentive way. Their survey found that staff’s friendliness was the number one reason for a positive hotel stay.
What can hotels do? Identify what guests expect from your hotel staff. If you run a lively hostel, guests expect friendly, outgoing, and welcoming staff during face-to-face interactions.
- Hear me. Guests understand that things don’t always go according to plan, however, they expect hotels to react in real time and acknowledge their wrongdoings.
What can hotels do? Perfect the art of service recovery. Empathize with guests and do whatever you can to rectify situations that have gone awry.
- Empower me. Guests expect to be able to shape their own experiences through hotel technology.
What can hotels do? Adopt hotel tech, such as chatbots and virtual concierges so guests can help themselves to information. While these services don’t replace your staff, they provide an option for guests who expect digital services and automation.
- Delight me. Guests don’t necessarily expect surprise and delight moments, but they are essential in exceeding expectations.
What can hotels do? Identify simple touches that you can include throughout your guest’s stay. Deloitte’s study found that younger guests (under 35) look for extra charm and distinction, citing it as 1.6 times more important than those 65-70 years old.
- Know me. Personalization is no longer an option in the hotel industry. Hotels should interact with guests by remembering and predicting their preferences.
What can hotels do? Respond to guests in their preferred mode of communication across multiple touchpoints, using translation integrations to communicate in their local language. Note if the guest has any special occasion or meal preferences and do what you can to make them feel seen.
Guest expectations vs. preferences
As mentioned above, guest expectations are behaviors or actions that guests anticipate while interacting with your property, from staff to hotel management.
On the other hand, guest preferences are what individual guests like and dislike about your property. Preferences are subjective and differ depending on the individual.
Expectations are based on external information such as online reviews or marketing materials.
Airbnb is a great example of showcasing both expectations and preferences. Guests can indicate down to the smallest details what their preferences are and find an accommodation that suits their needs.
They can then set expectations through reviews that Airbnb has made front and center for each property.
What makes Airbnb unique is the way they treat preferences with value. Each time a user engages with their platform, their preferences are remembered so that Airbnb can suggest personalized, relevant content.
Engage, personalize, and exceed guest expectations with the right technology
Your property’s technology should help you engage guests, personalize experiences, and exceed guest expectations, not get in the way. A fully integrated property management system (PMS) with guest engagement functionality can help you personalize communications through SMS and chat, conduct digital check-in, automate upsells, and send feedback surveys throughout the guest journey.